Well, the winter is almost off Kolkata, but the chill left around the middle of December when the first Singur issues came over, followed by the controversy of book fair to be held in Maidan.
I love book fair. When I was 9, my aunt took me to the book fair for the first time, and I was hooked. It was everything I dreamed of and everything I wished for. My only regret was that I did not get enough time to browse through every bookstall.
I go to the book fair every year, without fail. Most of the time I go alone. I enter and get lost in the immense number of people moving in snail’s pace all over. What do I love the most? The books, of course. And yes, I like bumping into a celebrity and utter a half-muffled “sorry” before realizing that “Hallo, This is-------!!”
But this time it was to be shifted. The High Court believes that the book fair will be a great source of pollution, so it is to be shifted somewhere other than the Kolkata Maidan, right at the heart of the city. Yes, that's actually something I support. Despite the fact that I want the Book Fair to be held, I believe that it can be held anywhere… the “Sanskritik Paribesh” (Cultural Environment) is an essence that can be achieved anywhere, given the right attitude.
It is not fair anyway for any fair to be held in the Kolkata Maidan. But for three years our chief minister had literally bullied the law to gain permission for the book fair to be held in Maidan. Why is this?? Because the chief minister does not want to ruin the “culture” of the Bengalis.
What culture?? Is the culture not ruined when Bengali language is compromised in the schoolbooks?? Is the culture not ruined when Bengali filmmakers directly copy and paste Hindi movies, word & action and all?? Is culture not ruined when in the name of protest a farce is played out right at the heart of the city??
I shall not vent my wrath on this issue further. It makes me wonder why do the media make such a big deal out of the shift of the book fair. There has been shifts and changes all the time, and in time, acceptance shall come. To tell the truth, I know that only about 5% of the vast population that streams through the book fair actually come for the books. Most of them give an appearance to –
a. meet celebrities,
b. appear intellectual and well-read,
c. meet and hang out with friends,
d. sample food from the numerous stalls,
e. look with wonder what a huge funny Disneyland type thing is on, without the Disney bit hanging out.
And I love book fair. Yes I do. But this is not the way it should be held. It is becoming an issue of grave political power play and that is where the line should be drawn. I as a book lover would not ever support that.
Now for the other bit. I was watching the debate today after the high court passed the decision, and in the news channel, they were holding a sort of opinion poll. SMS after SMS came in favour of the book fair, and most of them have horrid errors. From the Cultured, Educated Bengalis who are trying to promote book fair in Maidan, here are a few gems:
1. Certainly it must be held in Maidan. We wan our bo ok far. (Ok-ay)
2. This is very humiliating for the books. (It is?)
3. We want proper athurity to juge. On it is not cultural program. It is only buisness (Go tell that to the authority)
4. Great decision. Its high time someone care about envoirnment. (Yep… we care about it too)
5. Congratulations to the high court for such a high decisions (oh, the lofty heights!!)
6. Bai Mela ekhon tarunder prem korar jayga hochhe. [yep. Bai Bai Baby]
7. If no book fair we deprive. Why we deprive? (what an intellectual question. Answers anyone?)
8. Yes kolkata book fare(?) should not be change. Maidan court of book fare. (ummmm………)
9. Maidane bhoy mela hog ager moto. (OOH, I am scared!!)
10. Book fair must must be allowed allowed in Maidan only. (I don’t don’t think so!)
And the winner is:
11. It is a very Sade case this loss of position.
By the way, the book fair is being held. At Yubabharati Krirangan ( Am too lazy to give you the link here.... go look up wikimapia for it) ..... and I am as happy as a lark because its less than 5 minutes from my home. By auto.